Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Dublin House in Seaport Square

dublin house design

Old-Fashioned Setting, Real Food: The Dublin House in Seaport Square

On a recent weekday afternoon we had lunch around two o'clock at Dublin House, a restaurant and bar at 9 Stanton Street in Seaport Square. With its vintage mahogany walls, Dublin House exhibits a solid, stable air. It has survived population shifts, retail business exodus, and the rest of the crises of the central cities. It is so much a survivor from another era that one gets the impression it will stay that way, even as another change - gentrification - arrives at Seaport Square.

The atmosphere of Dublin House is Irish, although the clientele – judging by the limited sample of four other diners we saw while we were there – reflected the diverse population of the area. Irish origins show in the faded country scenes of the wallpaper above the mahogany wainscoting, in the waitstaff's lively conversations with the regular customers, in the traditional Irish melodies found amidst the top forty and country-western jukebox selections. Bing Crosby crooned the Irish songs, we might add.

With the same menu for both lunch and supper, Dublin House stays open and serves food from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.. Consequently, the plates we ordered, although a bit high for a workday lunch, would be reasonably priced if ordered in the evening. Three of us were together this time, so we sampled a variety of selections. We ordered Fish and Chips on the regular menu at $5.75, and two of the several daily specials: Chopped Sirloin Steak and Hot Open Turkey Sandwich, at $5.25 each. The fish part of the Fish and Chips was fried haddock, and it was outstanding in both appearance and flavor. The portion was very generous; the filet had been dipped in a light batter and browned perfectly—we can hear someone on TV saying "fried to golden perfection!" The chips were steak fries, and they were greaseless, well-browned and well-cooked on the inside. Along with these went good cole slow made without too much mayonnaise or too much vinegar and a generous helping of classic Tartar Sauce.

Both the Hot Turkey and the Chopped Sirloin came with a choice of mashed potatoes or fries and string beans or cole slaw. The Hot Turkey came from an actual turkey or turkey breast and was not the synthetic-tasting pressed stuff called turkey roll. It was real! The Chopped Sirloin, looking like a large hamburger (definitely more than ¼ lb.) was greaseless and well-flavored. They served both meats with gravy, and (believe it or not!) the two gravies were different. That with the turkey was light and suitable for poultry; the Sirloin gravy was definitely beef. Despite the green string beans coming out of a can, they were hot and did not detract from the meal. Like the turkey, our potatoes were real, and not packaged reconstitutes. We should add that before the actual plates arrived they served us ice water without our requesting it, a basket filled with six slices of good packaged wheat bread, plus a small plate of butter.

To us as eagerly hungry diners, the hallmarks of Dublin House fare are the "realness" of the food and the ample portions. Consequently, although we had to wait a longish twenty minutes before getting our food, we would like to think this related to its authentic quality. Perhaps they actually were mashing the potatoes! However, a more likely explanation is that we arrived to dine at a slow time when the kitchen was not prepared for quick service. We assume food delivery during real lunch hours is faster.

Although our meals cost more than one would care to spend on lunch every day, the menu did contain less expensive items. Sandwiches prices ranged from $2.95 for a Grilled Cheese to $3.95 for a Bacon Burger. So one in quest of a $4 lunch could be well satisfied.

A few final words about the physical atmosphere of Dublin House: the bar is well separated from the restaurant section, a wall with only one small opening between them. The women's rest room, although not well-scrubbed and gleaming enough for a TV commercial, is clean and well-supplied. We found the dim lighting restful and relaxing; the absence of air conditioning might prove a problem on the hottest days, although with low eighties outside, we stayed comfortable.

All things considered, if you're in the area of Seaport Square, you can't go wrong by ducking into Dublin House for lunch or dinner, just as we did!

The low prices reflect the original date of this review during the twentieth century.

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current favorite authors

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Disclaimer: I truly am a little embarrassed, since everyone I've listed is a guy and all the theological types are protestants! I've listed mostly in the order the authors came to mind, categorizing each writer according to their literary genre or type I'm most familiar with. If you visit my other blogs, you'll notice I'm cross-posting; I expect to remember some omissions, so most likely I'll be adding to these lists.
Mostly Prose:

William Faulkner
Walter Brueggemann
Tony Campolo
Martin Luther
Martin Luther King
Paul Tillich
Martin Buber
Robert Farrar Capon
Max Lucado
Rick Bragg
James Cone
Matthew Fox
James Agee

Mostly Poets:

Richard Shelton
Hermann Hesse
Heinrich Heine
Conrad Aiken
Walt Whitman
Langston Hughes
Carl Sandburg

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How Many Jesuses?

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverWell, I'm not reading the chapters in order of appearance in the book, but I sort of read chapter 1 of a Generous Orthodoxy where Brian McLaren describes the seven manifestations (varieties?...try "categories"?) of Jesus he has experienced, so it's time for me to blog about some of my experiences of Jesus. Pastor Brian gets his Jesus-types taxonomy from various traditions and expressions of Christianity and does the biblical number seven with his Jesuses, getting specific with labels like Conservative Protestant, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Liberal Protestant, Anabaptist and Jesus of the Oppressed, grouping more according to style or worldview rather than doctrinal, theological or confessional propensities. I'll try matching his number, seven, and probably include some sub-types, but without taking time to flesh them out...incarnate them?! Here goes!
  1. Activist Jesus: coupled with fond memories of the activist Christian community that first nurtured by faith and practice.
    • Hand in hand with: Prophetic Jesus
    • Closely yoked with: Iconoclast Jesus
  2. Cosmic Christ: how many times have I mentioned how much I particularly love the Cosmic Christ of Colossians, the Pantocratur, the Oriental Potentate?
  3. Friend Jesus? yes; Jesus reveals my best and my worst to me and helps me change and grow. Besides, most importantly, friend Jesus walks alongside me everywhere I go, even when the rest of the world and church forsakes me—I gotta remember that.
    • Pretty much parallels Teacher Jesus, because friends often are our best teachers and our best teachers sometimes become our friends, too.
  4. Christ Jesus who meets us and whom we meet in the sacraments and in the commonest stuff of creation; the Risen and Ascended One who dwells in, with and under all creation.
  5. The Wandering, Marginalized Man of Sorrows who set out for urban and rural public ministry after being baptized by John the Wilderness Guy and temptations in the desert.
  6. Servant Jesus, living among us as one who served and commanding us to serve. Not far distant from McLaren's Jesus of the Oppressed nor from my Man of Sorrows Jesus 5, nor is Servant Jesus more than an eyeblink away from Jesus of Latin American, Asian, African and North American Liberation, Feminist, Womanist Theologies.
    • Another especially paradoxical manifestation of Wholly Holiness
  7. Jesus desiring to be recalled and Jesus worthy of being remembered: "Do this; remember me..." But how? With unforgettable liturgies? Or with memorable acts of compassion and solidarity?
Have I omitted Springtime Jesus? No, not—I do not claim that Jesus, or at least I don't recall ever meeting him! But slowly I have been learning the Crucified One, the Crucified Jesus, Man of Nazareth become the Risen One at Easter Sunday dawn, which without any doubt is a springtime festival!

I'll end with a quote from one of my own blogs, Transfiguration: Until the Day Dawns, from February 6, 2005:
The Sign of Jonah—Death and Resurrection! For two thousand years, theologians and faith communities have struggled to learn and discern what Jesus means to them. We know Jesus as teacher and Jesus as political prophet; doubtless many of us consider Jesus a social activist, too. Jesus as a healer? Probably. But Jesus, the man of Nazareth, who died outside the city on a cross of shame as the Christ of God? At the very heart of the story of Jesus of Nazareth stands the seven days we call Passion Week: a crucified man – but – then an empty grave, a narrative with no easy answers or clear-cut implications, a series of events so far outside the normally credible many of us would like to dismiss it as legend. But today’s lections are not about death and resurrection but about something else altogether—they’re about a spectacular manifestation of God’s Glory on yet another mountaintop.
Of course, I hope that teaser will lead you to read the entire blog! I'm planning to continue blogging about a Generous Orthodoxy and I'm also working on several more blogs for this site.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

25 Waterfront Drive

Imaginary and legendary names; real experiences.
Okay, all of you readers—since writing restaurant reviews for the local radical rag may have been my all-time favorite job anywhere at any time, I've decided to post another. These reviews are a indispensable part of my journeying this far by faith, but judiciously I've changed names, places, and some other specifics to continue protecting the guilty. As I chose my revisionist designations, I noticed how constantly seacoast and desert pull me back and forth. No surprise! But this time I stuck with the coast...
25 waterfront drive

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive: Bright Spot in Seaport Square

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive was sunlit and inviting as we stopped by a little after one o'clock for Sunday brunch. Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive? On the southwest corner of Waterfront and Seaport Street, it's Seaport Square's newest dining establishment, and it's decidedly taking a bow toward gentrification. It has an air of class-consciousness: its name; its décor—highlighted by single fresh daffodils in depression-glass bud vases; creamy-colored linen tablecloths and beige cloth napkins; its somewhat eclectic though traditionally American bill of fare.

First impressions: a clean, well-contained room with seating capacity around 70, luminous natural light, an abundance of large, healthy plants, and about a dozen framed prints by local artists. Three walls painted white, a single brick wall, an unobtrusive dark Dhurrie-type rug, black ceiling and dark brown molded chairs added up to an aura of self-assured warmth and soft edges. Unhappily, too-loud music and talk from a commercial radio station also formed part of the initial impression.

Written on a wall-mounted chalkboard, the brunch menu for that day included griddle cakes or French toast for $5.85, with specialty griddle cakes, ham, bacon, or sausage an unspecified extra amount; a choice of four different omelets for $6.95; $7.95 for steak and eggs; Turkey Wellington or ham and yams for $8.50; fresh-catch of local fish and a vegetable-of-the-day for $9.35. Fresh cantaloupe or grapefruit listed at $2.35; mimosa (a champagne and fruit drink), $2.75. The menu board cited a fairly extensive variety of wine and beer. By this neighborhood's standards these prices are about average, although possibly a little lower than you'd pay for comparable fare in some other sections of the city.

We began our meal with sweet, flavorful fresh cantaloupe served with a sprig of parsley and a slice of lime. For entrées, one of us opted for an omelet – The Waterfront Drive – the other, for French toast. The omelet was chock full of chopped onions sautéed until transparent, crumbled sweet sausage, and sliced mushrooms, browned until golden and eased onto the plate so it looked like a half-moon. Savory hash browns, diced and blended with onion and cilantro accompanied the omelet, as did a grilled English muffin and jelly. With a glass of white Chablis ($2.65), it added up to a satisfying blend of flavors and textures.

The French toast also deserves a sound commendation! Three hefty slices made from substantial bread, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and spread across the plate arrived at the table. The outside was well-browned; the inside, the color of beaten egg; the edges, a trifle irregular from excess batter; this French toast had been soaked in vanilla-flavored batter along with a trace of an unidentified spice. Coffee and a selection of teas each were $1.45, each refillable.

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive's current hours are Monday-Saturday from 7-10:30 for breakfast; Wednesday-Saturday 11-3 for lunch, 5-10 for dinner; brunch only on Sunday, from 10-3.

The association of Seaport Square and Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive will be interesting to watch in the months to come, since the restaurant's existence may foreshadow the future of the area. What does Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive say about commercial and residential investments and opportunities in Seaport Square? Waterfront Drive and Seaport Street is enough of a crossroads location that the restaurant's patronage potentially could be quite varied, but Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive's name and atmosphere probably would be likely to attract either those who already consider themselves "gentry" or those who are self-consciously upwardly mobile, rather than those from other groups who now make Seaport Square's surrounding area their home.

If Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive is a sign of things to come, does this mean additional shops and stores of the same general type? Does it thus signal the closing of still more businesses and the reopening of boarded storefronts? Does it mean a future Seaport Square whose stores and homes will not be available to many of the people who live there now? Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive is both a culinary bright-light and a place to watch in an area to watch; I encourage you to try its food and to keep an eye on its future and the future of Seaport Square!

25 waterfront drive

Low prices?! Please note this happened during the last century.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Urban Coastal Cuisine

Here’s a spin on what I did during my probably all-time favorite job—a volunteer gig writing restaurant reviews for the local radical newsrag.
Madison Square's Newest Temptation

"Lunches to Savor and Remember"

urban coastal cuisineWith all the yuppies, graduate students, young families, and assorted others who've been moving into town, it's high time for the arrival of an establishment like Urban Coastal Cuisine!

Since we'd been wondering if the restaurant's name was overstated, too trendy, or aptly descriptive, last Tuesday a pair of us ventured into Urban Coastal's luncheon buffet. UCC occupies a storefront on Jefferson Street in Madison Square vacated several months ago by a retail outlet of a recently defunct small grocery chain; current tenants on the surrounding blocks include several national retail outlets.

In reviving and redesigning the site, Abigail Janssen and Rich Krone, the restaurant's owners/managers, both recent graduates of Johnson & Wales, retained the original plate glass windows and one of the original entryways, blocking the 2nd door with a subtle, freeform graphic done in densely textured acrylic with metallic accents by local artist and teacher Maya Gutierrez. Banner signage announces "local seafood and ethnic cuisine"; a quartet of Seats of Consciousness, commissioned from Mariela Santos of Community Fair Food's bevy of co-workers and fans, offer inviting spots to rest, wait, converse, or meet people. Inside the windows and peering out to greet passersby and potential diners, window boxes filled with floral plantings add a spot of bright color to an otherwise subtly sophisticated presentation mostly done in natural hues.

Once inside UCC, we discovered the atmosphere attempts to mimic what I've experienced in Cambridge's Harvard and Central Squares but in a less in-your-face "this is the way to be 'in' these days" manner. Clearly there is "a way to be" if you're well-educated and you've opted for inner-city rather than suburban living, and one of the requisite lifestyle accoutrements includes at least occasional dining at places that serve other than the more classic and traditional Americana vittles.

As we perused the bill of fare, we noticed the prices were high for lunch in Madison Square. But sometimes the image is costly, right? So going for the expected splurge, one of us ordered grilled (unspecified) seafood fajitas with Caribbean chutney-style salsa and "Thai Style" fruit compote. Yes. The other decided on non-coastal, choosing slightly blackened (that's still current?) chicken breast au poivre, wild rice medley, (local!) and a garden-fresh tomato and mixed green salad with the obligatory house vinaigrette. Since the wine selection was too pricey for us, we decided to drink bottled water. Then on to dessert—this time a different ethnicity with Tiramisu and an American favorite: strawberry-rhubarb tart crowned with housemade vanilla ice cream. To accompany dessert one of us had an herbal and black tea blend created by one of our J&W graduate hosts and served with honey from New Hampshire; the other chose a double latté from a plethora of specialty coffees. On a side note, while we were lunching, folks at two nearby tables stopped in for coffee and pastry, so that less-expensive option may help restaurant revenue.

urban coastal cuisineThe food? Yes, the food! Presentation of all the cuisine that came to our table was clean, fresh and appealing, served on natural-colored stoneware. All the flavors of everything were nicely married, with no particular accent overwhelming another one. However, none of the food we ordered had a particularly distinct or novel taste, either: it was more in keeping with the expected standard of this kind of cuisine, but that works well!

Ambience definitely is a big part of this restaurant's draw, with interior walls painted a light sandy beige, pale wood tables and chairs, and newly-refinished wide-plank floors coupled with stoneware dishes, silk flowers on the table and a diversity of silk-screened city scene, beach scene, and city beach scene prints hanging on the walls—including Malibu, one of my local favorites. The calming effect of it all took me back to a more tranquil era and soon will draw me back to Urban Coastal Cuisine. Recorded music definitely would enhance the entire mise-en-scéne or – ideally – live music, such as guitar or mandolin. But I can dream! Rich Krone, who together with Abigail Janssen is UCC’s owner/manager, told me a live music series s part of his vision, and acquiring an arts grant to provide live music performances is another hope for the future.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Baptist Blog

I'll begin by paraphrasing Luther: Condemned are the Anabaptists, who imagine they can do anything on their own. From Heidelberg Disputation(?)—I'm not sure. I've just finished reading Chapter 13, "Why I am (Ana)Baptist/Anglican" of Brian McLaren's a Generous Orthodoxy, so here's my blog; I'm actually allowing myself latitude about not compulsively linking to and referencing absolutely everything, but you can find a direct link to the book in my Products and Packaging from July 28.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverAt this moment I don't recall what I was reading by whom at which time, but something I read not too long ago mentioned people in the churches sometimes designated "historic peace churches" are not reluctant to talk about the wrath of God, while mainline-types often hesitate to talk about sin and depravity and many conservative evangelical types are into sweet, friendly Jesus—"springtime Jesus" but not the Crucified One become the Risen Christ at Easter's dawn. So for a while I referenced Mennonite, Brethren and others birthed from the Radical Reformation as "Wrath of God" churches. A while ago I also mentioned that God had (sort of) taken me out of the liberal, activist American Baptist church that shaped my early Christian journey - though in my late teens and early 20's I wasn't all that young - because there aren't many Baptists writing heavy-duty theology. I've long been aware that a huge part of my attraction to the Reformation tradition has been its huge quantity of well-considered theology. McLaren mentions a scarcity of Baptist theologians, too—right on track with my own perception! As I continue research and consideration of my future book about ecological theology...

I love this chapter—esp the Ana/Baptist section, but also the Anglican one. Here's this blog's point of departure for me:

from AfterglowSarah McLachlan


Heaven bend to take my hand and lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer to a long and painful fight
Truth be told I tried my best
But somewhere long the way I got caught up in all there was to offer
But the cost was so much more than I could bear
Though I've tried I've fallen I have sunk so low...

Heaven bend to take my hand I've nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to these I thought were friends to everyone I know
...and there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed
Excerpts in my mind from "Way to Go", an autumn 2004 blog on city delights round out this Sunday evening's sentiments.

Although I'm trying to be a little whimsical, I'm also trying hard to say conventional mainline protestant churches have not been working for me, for whatever reason. In addition, as I contemplated returning to the East Coast and scoped out websites for the two churches close to Harvard Square that logically would be my first places of inquiry – First Congregational and University Lutheran – and then checked out Old Cambridge Baptist, everything about OCBC seemed to make it my way to go. Notice the not-oblique reference to my blog quoted supra! By the way, every one of those churches I just mentioned is liberal and activist, so in those terms any differences are negligible. The Theology page on OCBC's website reads,
Some of our visitors marvel . . . "and all this at a Baptist church!" We take our theological bearings from deep within the European and British tradition of anabaptists, which held that the Gospel, rightly interpreted, was the a matter between an individual, his or her community of believers and God.
Before reading Chapter 13, I read Chapter 12, "Fundamentalist/Calvinist." Discussion question #1 asks about "fundamentals of the Christian faith that we're willing to fight for." I'll reply yes, definitely: Solus Christus!

As I fondly reminisce about First Mariner's ABC that nurtured me so, I do realize its very small size was a major part of its effectiveness for me. My youth and shapeability, bendability or whatever you want to call it doubtless was another overwhelming factor! I've told about this in person but haven't blogged many details, but the community was demanding and intense: in order really to belong they expected and pretty much directed you to be at worship, at Bible study, participate in and when asked lead a discussion; we had a close to locally legendary Holy Club that met weekly to discuss a book chapter or sermon, quite apart from Bible study groups. Baptist?! As I've previously mentioned, I was baptized in an Episcopal church as a young child, but when I asked the 1st Mariner's pastor if I needed to be baptized again (ana), he asked why would I!? We routinely took part in both everyday and specific issue-oriented neighborhood goings-on. When local and national political campaigns were on the docket, we were expected to work for the candidate or cause of our choice: no particular position dictated, but you'd better be there and you'd better show you care! A couple of times a group of us ventured out to the countryside on weekend retreat; those times we observed regular periods of silence and prayed the canonical hours, so I got to borrow the office books from the Franciscan Friary a couple doors. That discalced order of brown-robed brothers would traipse around the snowy winter city sidewalks and streets in sandals! One might imagine "Baptist" by default would be liturgically low-church, but we weren't exactly so. BCP worship was not unusual for us, and when a friend expressed an interest in elaborate liturgy, the pastor (who also was executive director of the multi-service agency housed in the same building) sent her around the corner to Old North. The same pastor, observing my interest in theology, suggested I attend Krister Stendahl's Wednesday morning Eucharist at UniLu; those Wednesdays, followed by breakfast and discussion at a local restaurant for anyone with time who was inclined, helped define my future. I'm not at all sure I outgrew the bounds of the now-disbanded First Mariner's Church, but God sent me in other directions.

McLaren distinguishes churches such as the American Baptist, which for the most part claim a British Isles heritage and Anabaptists of continental European origin, but in the blog at hand I'm grouping them together as being different and distinct from Reformation, Methodist (ummm, Arminian, Pentecostals...) and those on the Canterbury Trail. And again, while the person in the pew or on the streets might imagine mode of and age at baptism the primary dissimilarity, that is so not so. In fact, I don't perceive it as counting much at all, and I'm not sure McLaren does, either. I'll quote him from page 229: ...Anabaptists have long understood that what really counts is a fruitful way of life." Omigosh! On page 231 he says, "As outsiders [Anabaptists] learned to function at the margins, and they learned that the gospel functions there just as well as or better than at the centers of power, prestige, wealth and control." Part of my own story, and these days I'm saying it out loud: over the past dozen years I have felt and literally have been pushed to the edges, out from the center of society, of the church and of the human endeavor and in the process, I know I have experienced the heart of God, which is the heart of a stranger who doesn't really belong anywhere. During this time I've actually emerged as a theologian, learning to articulate God's passion and human reality. After all, throughout the witness of the Bible and history's witness, we learn the fullness of divinity and the fullness of humanity are the same, captivatingly revealed in Jesus Christ. Got it? I'm finally getting it! Pages 232-223: "Anabaptists know that community is far more costly than that [the candles, programs and training videos McLaren cites as examples]: one cannot add it to anything, rather one must begin with it in order to enter it, practice it and preserve it." Since Brian McLaren says it so well, here's my final quote, from page 223: "The exchange of treasures around that table can enrich us all, and without the Anabaptists there, the party is hardly worth having." He's talking about Christian – possibly formal ecumenical - conversation, a vital aspect of the eschatological feast of redemption's completeness, but it must go far further, to the Welcome Table of the Eucharist we celebrated this morning; it needs to culminate and then continue with the sanctuary and the healing embrace of the Welcoming Community I long for and finally am admitting in words I need in order to be alive (yes) and even to survive much longer.

Brian McLaren includes four pages about Anglicanism; I've blogged some about my experience with the Episcopal Church, especially last winter when I wrote about the short-lived Book of Daniel TV program, but in a day or two I'll write a few responses to the end of this Chapter 13.